Dear Athletes of Generation Z:
First, let me preface this letter by saying it doesn’t apply to all of today’s young athletes. But, I’d say it does apply to many. If you feel that this doesn’t apply to you, read it anyway, share the message, and continue to lead by example.
Also, let me make one thing clear before I dive in: I get today’s young athlete. I am not some old, has-been, washed-up coach. I am a young strength coach who is closer to the age he walked at high school graduation than he is to his 30th birthday. And, I am even further from being the “Get off my lawn!” old man who can’t stand anything “today’s scoundrels” are doing with their flingin’ flangin’ rap music…
No, I understand today’s young athlete. I can identify with having hopelessly grand dreams of playing professional sports, no matter how small, weak, or scrawny I may have been. I vividly remember sacrificing many things for “the love of the game” – such as a social life, and even my grades, which was a very bad choice. I get what you’re saying when you Hashtag “Goals” for a picture of an exotic gold-plated sports car, and for a life that involves going to work on a sports field every day. I get you.
So, when I tell you what I am about to tell you, just remember that I am not without understanding of your perspective. That being said…
Your “GRIND” is killing the high school game.
What game, you ask? ALL of the games. Any of them; basketball, baseball, football, soccer… Any sport you can play in high school, you are ruining. Let me explain:
Are You Chasing Your Dreams, or Running From Adversity?
Every kid your age, or who has ever been your age, has had a dream, whether they openly shared it on Twitter and Instagram or not. So, the difference between you, the current young and entitled athlete, and those in the past is not the dream itself, nor is it the work that goes into pursuing goals and dreams. The difference is in your perception of what it takes to make your dream a reality.
When you think of this process, you think of catchy slogans that fit in 140 characters or less #NoGrindNoGlory. You think playing time, not practice time. You think “Prime” and “Elite” – especially when it comes to travel ball teams – not development and coachability. You think that “transfer”, “big rings”, and “nice things” are more closely synonymous than persistence, adversity, camaraderie, and winning-together. You think “I deserve it”, not “I earned it”.
The second adversity strikes on the gridiron, field, or court you generally bail. Not getting enough playing time? You and your parents will, in the case of travel or club ball, take your money elsewhere. Not surrounded with enough talent on the field, while all of the studs are at the cross-town school, you find a means to transfer. Teachers “failing you” for “no reason”, you beg your parents to call the school and order a class change. High school coach isn’t knocking down enough doors for you like your travel ball coach (that you’re paying) is, you threaten to quit the high school team altogether to “focus on grades, training, and travel-ball.”
Never mind the hardship and the lessons that can be learned from sticking it out one time. Forget the growth as a person or a team that comes as a byproduct of resistance and struggle. And, certainly don’t consider the rippling ramifications you’re having on those around you (i.e. the strain on your folks, what you’re taking away from your team, and what your coach is going through). Instead, take the path of least resistance; those “obstacles” are only getting in between you and your dreams. They’re slowing your roll, and for that reason it’s time to “Officially” announce on social media that you’ve decided to transfer high schools, and how you can’t wait to start your grind there.
It’s this, though – your grind – that is killing the game, and ultimately it is only hurting you in the long run. You may see your commitment to a new high school or travel team as the fast-track to a college commitment, but in reality it is only exposing an uncommitted, self-serving attitude. You believe that this grind is chasing your dreams, but in reality you’re just running away from adversity.
In all seriousness though, this is intended to be a wake-up call for today’s youth athlete movement. An awakening to the fact that, if this continues down the same path, high school sports will fizzle into irrelevance and utter oblivion (a la American Legion Baseball). And, for what? So that the majority of you high school athletes can spend more [of your parents’] money on “exposure”, learn less life-long lessons, contribute to the disbandment of high school athletics, and still not play collegiate sports? (Since, no matter who you are, the odds and probabilities are still slanted against you).
More to the point, every time you run from a challenge or adversity to take your grind elsewhere, you’re straining any potential relationship you might actually create. Not just with friends, but with coaches and teachers as well – those who genuinely want to see you succeed, not just as an athlete, but as a whole person. So, instead of running, try sticking around so that those around you who care about you (i.e. your coaches, parents, teachers) can help you break through those hard times; so that they can coach you; so that they can develop you; so that they can help you SUCCEED!
The blame, though, doesn’t solely fall on your shoulders. You’re also surrounded by enablers, such as coaches who have done or will do anything to make sure you stay on the field because you’re just that talented. Then there is the school board and legislation that has allowed you to transfer more freely than ever. Travel/Club/AAU ball has also created its own culture that fosters the I’ll-Just-Leave-If-I’m-Not-Satisfied mentality. Not to mention your parents who may be even more incentivized to get to the next level than you are:
I’m sorry to generalize and say “you” so much. You, yourself reading this, may actually be quite different than the picture I am painting.
But, that would make you an outlier today, not the norm. EDIT: It would be false to claim that the majority if student-athletes are transferring or have this attitude, although it is becoming more prevalent, which is really the actual point I am trying to illuminate. If this all does not apply to you then please, keep up the great work and continue to lead by example and maybe pass this lesson on.
At the end of the day, all educators and coaches want is to see their student-athletes happy, healthy, and in a position to be successful. And, one of our greatest fears is that, in the process of chasing a far off goal or dream, you’re actually, in reality, simply avoiding obstacles by making twists and turns that take your even further from those dreams.
So please, kid, stop letting your grind ruin the game we love, and stop letting it get in the way of your personal, scholastic, and athletic development